The default estate administration category is Probate. The Probate Estate consists of all of the assets that do not have a built-in mechanism for transferring upon death, and those assets are handled according to the procedures and rules identified in the Illinois Probate Act. If there was no Will, the administration will be handled entirely pursuant to the Probate Act.
If the deceased person left a Will, the Probate administration will be directed by the Will in keeping with the procedures and default provisions of the Probate Act. The Will usually identifies the executor who will handle the administration of the estate and the persons who will ultimately receive the assets in the probate estate after all the bills, taxes and costs of the administration of the estate are paid. Those people identified in the Will are known as “legatees”.
If the deceased person did not have a Will, the administrator is whoever is willing to step up and take responsibility (subject to priority provided in the Probate Act), and the persons who will receive the estate are identified in the Probate Act. Those persons are the receive the estate assets when there is no Will are known as the “heirs”.
The probate process is started by the filing of a petition to open the probate estate requesting the judge to issue “Letters Testamentary” which approves the administrator or the executor and authorizes that person to act. Other documentation, like an inventory, bond, etc. must also be provided to the court. The opening of a probate estate also requires an attorney to represent the estate.
The Probate Act requires notices to be mailed to the heirs, the legatees and to known creditors, and notice must also be published in the local newspaper once a week for three successive weeks. After those notices are completed, a six (6) month claims period must pass before the estate can be closed and the assets distributed.
Closing the probate estate requires another petition to be submitted to the court with the necessary documentation, including a final inventory, detailed accounting, receipts on distribution and other documentation. The attorneys’s fees and administrator’s or executor’s fees must also be approved, and all issues that have arisen during the probate proceeding must be resolved before the estate can be closed.
Probate estate administration is overseen by a judge. As with any other legal proceeding, the court records and the proceeding is public. All potential and real claims are resolved during the probate process so that, when the assets are finally distributed, and the estate is closed, no one can ever undo the process or assert a claim in those assets. Altogether, a typical probate process takes about nine (9) months to a year.
Probate is one of the focuses of the attorneys at the Drendel & Jansons Law Group. If you need assistance in the handling of a probate estate, making a claim against a probate estate, challenging a Will or the appointment of an administrator or executor, or any other matter involved in the probate process, please contact us.